Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pirates All-Time Starting Lineup --

What can bring me back to a dormant blog? Finals? Yes. Baseball? Yes.

Here is my personal Pirates starting lineup.

C - Jason Kendall --> .378 slugging (this is ironic); one of the few Pirates I ever remember being at his peak while a Pirate; most gruesome sports injury I have ever seen.

1B - Willie Stargell --> Take that, Augustus Sur! Bush leaguer. Although I will give him credit for being buried in Homewood and in a cemetery. I own this T-shirt.

2B - Bill Mazeroski --> My dad went to "Fantasy Baseball Camp" one year and brought back a ball signed by Maz. "To Nate, a future Pirate. -Bill Mazeroski-" When I asked what we do with it, Father replied, "We keep it nice and hope he dies."

3B - Pie Traynor --> Hall of Famer, played in that beautiful time between the Great Wars when names were awesome.

SS -- Honus Wagner --> Best Pirate of all time! No doubt. Best shortstop of all time. Not debatable. And.. he owes my Grandfather 10 cents. As a young boy Pop Pop would cut "that damn kraut's grass" and he would never pay. I still have a Honus Wagner poster up in my house. My parents scolded me saying, "Pop Pop would roll over in his grave." But is hard to find anti-Honus Wagner posters... I've looked.

LF -- Barry Bonds --> I did consider putting Stargell as a left fielder just to keep this honor from Bonds, but considering he is on trial right now, he needs all the support he can get. He is just a pioneer of sports medicine, and probably one of the greatest players I have ever seen.

CF -- Andy Van Slyke --> His constant scratching, spitting, nose-picking and swearing taught me what it means to play the game. Pop Pop called him, "Van Slick". Someone told me he had a heart attack and died in Wilkinsburg. This saddened me until I went on a date and they announced the first base coach of the Detroit Tigers as "Andy Van Slyke." It was like a soap opera. I did not get a second date assumingly from my overzealous reaction to the opposing first base coach.

RF -- Roberto Clemente --> Legend. Breakthrough Latin player, humanitarian, cannon arm. I will forgive him being a little fragile and a crybaby.

SP -- Doc Ellis --> This video speaks for itself. It has forever added, "Got a No-No goin," to my phraseology when trying to jinx friends.

Coach -- Jim Leyland --> He keeps bees because they have too much freedom. He also smokes like a chimney, has marbles in his mouth, and says, "Atta baby."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ah, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

That's some good reporting PPG....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

All Black Everything

So.... a great story from a friend:

I met this young man in Jackson Hole, WY while visiting a friend. He owns a gas station in Idaho, one of those "last gas for 150 miles" places. A few Sundays ago his only customer of the day roles in to fill up.
He's riding a vintage Indian motorcycle, and is dressed in all black: leather pants, jacket, black helmet with a blacked out visor. As he comes in to pay, my friend jokes to him, "Hey, who do you think you are? Darth Vader?"
"No, I'm Han Solo."
He takes of his helmet and it is the captain of the Millennium Falcon himself, Harrison Ford.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Gentleman Never Starts Rumors

My AP History course junior year was unbearable. My teacher was insistent on testing us on every single chapter individually. This meant that we were taking a 50-100 question test every week in order to cover Columbus to Clinton in a year. This was a 3 semester "college course" crammed into a high school year. I once suggested that she break the course into units. She replied that the tests that came with the book went by chapters. The fact that she admitted to not even making the questions herself led me to just drop it.

In retrospect it was taking a 100-question multiple choice test every week that made me so good at test-taking. By the 20th test you could see how the book and test makers interacted and could basically scan the chapters and know the answers. This led to a lot of easy tests and free time after I was done taking the test. So I decided to start a rumor. I didn't want there to be any social damage done, but needed something that would spread like wildfire. The answer was staring me in the face: SCANTRON. I came up with the rumor that if you rubbed a line of Chapstick over the dashes that ran lengthwise on the page the machine would reset and grade it a perfect score. I claimed by uncle worked for Scantron Inc and that was the way that they reset the machines.

This practice did spread like wildfire. When I saw people spreading a line of Chapstick on their gym tests I started to get nervous. Perhaps I was negatively affecting my classmates grades (I don't know why they believed me). Perhaps I was doing something illegal (I don't know what). Perhaps I would get caught (I don't know what for).

This all came to a head when we had to start taking multiple choice tests on non-Scantron answer sheets. I learned later in the year that the machine was broken. I don't know if it was simply from lazy teachers abusing the machine, but I like to think there was a petroleum-based buildup that led to that machine's demise.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Fahter's Sit-In: A Man Always Knows How To Find A Bargain

My parents, as a practice, were never very political. I can never once, even in the past election cycle, remember my parents discussing politics in front of their children. When pressed they would dodge the question, saying, "I'll probably vote for the winner." There are two things that could explain this.
  1. They wanted their children to form their own political opinions
  2. They were really as lazy as they sounded.
Neither of these would be odd if true.

My father once did take part in a sit-in though, in a furniture store. For weeks my father lusted after a blue leather La-Z-Boy brand recliner. It was a significant upgrade from the blue corduroy La-Z-Boy recliner that currently resided on the brown shag carpeting in the basement. This chair was a testaments to my father's fear of change. It was held together mainly with duct tape and a fear of having to watch the Pirates game in the living. It had survived both winter and summer "Couch Olympics" and would apparently just fall apart randomly because as my siblings and I would say "We were just sitting on it and this happened." Our cat having birthed kittens in the bowels of the chair was the final straw.

$600 is an exorbitant amount of money to a 10-year-old boy, but you must assume that you father deserves it. My mother saw it differently. Then one miraculous Saturday evening the unused half of our double front door swings open and we see my father carrying it on top of his head, head on the seat and the recliner on his back. "How much, Neil?"

$300! I went there this morning and offered $200. I was there when they opened, in fact I knocked at 10AM sharp. I strolled right up to it as if I owned it already. In my mind I think I already knew they would give it to me. '$200,' I said with disgust as if I was paying twice for it. They said, "No way," and paused, they paused Sherry, to add the "sir," to make it that much more insulting. I said, 'That's perfectly fine, I can wait a little.' And I parked my butt right in this chair and I sat. At first the sailsman didn't know what to do, he tried to go about his day, oh my yes he did. But, each time he would walk by he would would avoid my gaze with a little more.... purpose. So, it gets to be Noon, two, three, and I'm still in that chair, and now there is no way I can't get this chair, it's been 6 hours. At this point the salesman won't even come in to my part of the store, it was now my part of the store. I see him whisper to his manager one more time and he walks over to me. I figure they are going to call the cops if I don't leave. I am weighing the options of fighting for a bargain or going downtown. He comes up to me and says, "$300?" I told him it was a deal and I picked up the chair like a bag of lemons and take it to the register.

"Neil, you spent all day in a chair to get some money off a chair?" But he was already gone down to his man cave to sit on his spoils. About ten minutes later we hear him call up the stairs,
"Sherry, did you make $300 today, because I did."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Billy Buck Hill: A Gentleman Is Appreciative of History

I am almost completely done unpacking in my new apartment. The prodigal son has returned to the South Side Slopes, more specifically Billy Buck Hill? That's right, hang a left onto Yard Way and you will see a sign marked "Welcome to Billy Buck Hill." Of course an overactive imagination in a perverse 25-year-old mind begins fleshing out The Legend of Billy Buck: Epic Pittsburgh Bootlegger. I half expected to see a plaque in front of my house saying:
On this day in 1939 Billy "Buck" McGraw was gunned down by 29 Federal enforcement officers after a 23-day standoff. It took over 50 rounds to end his life.

Determined to find out who the real Billy Buck was I took advantage of the wonderful collection of local history in the Pennsylvania Room of the Carnegie Public Library, but had little success. I then ran across this 2000 Pittsburgh Post Gazette article profiling Billy Buck Hill as a quintessential Pittsburgh neighborhood.

It turns out my neighborhood is called "Billy Buck Hill" because people used to keep goats on the steep hillsides..... damn it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Short Teaching Career.... A Gentleman Should Have Intestinal Fortitude

I preface this post with the statement that I think "Teach for America" is a great an necessary program that I do not know it well enough to make a informed judgment. That said, here is my horrible experience with TFA.

I was reminded of my one-lecture teaching career by this article discussing the microcosm of American Primacy in the beef between Jay-Z and The Game. The article sets Jay-Z (rap mogul, record company executive, all-around player) as the hegemonic US, and The Game as the backlash against said power. It presents two options:

So what does Jay-Z do? If he hits back hard in public, the Game will gain in publicity even if he loses... the classic problem of a great power confronted by a smaller annoying challenger. And given his demonstrated skills and talent, and his track record against G-Unit, the Game may well score some points. At the least, it would bring Jay-Z down to his level -- bogging him down in an asymmetric war negating the hegemon's primary advantages. If Jay-Z tries to use his structural power to kill Game's career (block him from releasing albums or booking tour dates or appearing at the Grammy Awards), it could be seen as a wimpy and pathetic operation -- especially since it would be exposed on Twitter and the hip hop blogs.

What does this have to do with my one and only lecture? Well, such a ridiculous over-analyzed argument, given at the wrong time, to the wrong audience, basically sums up my only lecture.

While I was doing my Shakespeare seminar, I had a friend teaching EngLit in public high schools in a rough corner of Columbus Ohio. Having exchanged papers and ideas throughout the many Philosophy Coffees (here comes the nerd) at our small liberal arts college, she asked me to give a lecture basically on my observations of "Private Thoughts and Madness in Shakespeare." I had my notes prepared, a tie on, and illustrating examples from the Ghostface Killah's masterpiece FishScale. I even had examples of iambic pentameter from the album. Do you know how many times I listened to "Kilo ft. Raekwon" to find an example that fit? Unfortunately, I couldn't get to these examples. The lecture went like this:

Me: Hello class, my name is Nate, and I want to talk a little about Shakespeare and some of the different tricks he used to create private characters on the public stage. Who can tell me the difference between a soliloquy and an aside?"

Unidentified kid: Shut the fuck up, fag.

I stumbled along for a few more minutes, but it was essentially over at that point. After the lecture, I went out to lunch with my friend and she said it takes a certain fortitude to work with those kids. "They were so mean," was all I could get out in reply.